The objective of this research is to generate a comprehensive analysis of the impact of and continued relevance of eugenics in Japan. In so doing, I seek to establish how the pseudo-science of ‘race’, combined with advances in the science of genetics, influenced social policies in the areas of medicine, health care, and the confinement of those deemed congenitally unfit. This will involve analyses of: (a) the nation state as an organic entity and the consequent biologization of a range of social issues; (b) the development and implementation of national health systems that incorporated eugenist assumptions; and (c) the impact of eugenist informed policies on marginalized populations including the urban underclasses and the congenitally ill with particular emphasis on the treatment and care of leprosy.
Today in Japan there exists a nationwide system of thirteen leprosaria which house less than 2,000 people, most of whom are elderly and infirm. Some residents have spent more than five decades within the leprosaria, the largest of which once housed more than 1,900 persons. The trajectory of their lives was determined by the passage in 1931 of the ‘lifetime confinement’ law that required the forcible segregation until death of all those diagnosed with leprosy. It was not until 1996 that this law was finally repealed, but only after a lengthy debate that focused on a single question; whether leprosy still constituted a threat to public health. Although public awareness of the leprosaria system remains limited, the controversy has been transferred to the courts where hundreds of patients have filed suit against the state seeking compensation on the grounds that the confinement law violated their human rights.
Japanese Wartime Propaganda Posters, a Pictoral History.
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